Purslane

Garden Clippings for July 15, 2017

Growing up, Purslane was the worst of all weeds.  There was Ragweed, Burdock, Thistle, Queen Ann’s Lace, Horsetail, but Purslane was the most hated.

All eleven of us did our fair share of hoeing.  Most of it was done in the hot dry days of July and August.  Looking back, the job wasn’t so bad, provided we went at it with a small army.  But it was dreaded when we went out solo.  I figured it was Dad’s way of punishing us.

Purslane was the worst of all bad weeds because it wouldn’t die after it was hoed.  Even if it was turned upside down after being uprooted, it would likely revive with a vengeance, forming several new roots that could grow into several new plants.

Rain was a mixed blessing.  We loved the rain because the damp soil made hoeing much easier.  But when it rained the purslane grew faster, true for both the hoed and yet to be hoed purslane.  We soon learned that the best way to deal with purslane was to hoe it and have a younger brother or sister follow behind and gather the weeds in a wheelbarrow and dump them in the compost heap.

Fast forward fifty odd years and we are learning that Purslane is destined to become the next superfood, right behind blueberries and kale.  That’s a tough pill for me to swallow.  Sort of like Donald Trump admitting that Obamacare in some way or another, is good for America.  It just won’t happen.

For the hoer, Purslane (portulaca oleracea) is a creeping weed with small succulent leaves.  It won’t grow in lawns or driveways, but sticks to cultivated fields such as vegetable gardens and nurseries.  Give purslane a hot, dry, sunny spot and it will thrive.  Purslane is draught tolerant and does not need good soil.

For the nutritionist, Purslane is the annual vegetable with more omega-3 fatty acids than any other plant.  It is low in calories, but rich in dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals.  It is particularly rich in vitamin C and A.  Type “purslane” in any search engine and you will wonder why we eat anything else.

Eating Puslane may be a new phenomenon for us in North America, but that’s not the case for much of the rest of the world.  For the Al-Khaleels, the Syrian family who arrived in Sarnia 18 months ago, Purslane is a regular part of their diet.

Roots of Purslane are easy to pull out, making harvesting a cinch.  Wash fresh leaves and stems thoroughly to remove any sand.  Make sure you look for plants that are free of pesticides.  After washing, dry the leaves as best you can before putting them in the fridge.  Purslane is best eaten fresh but can be stored in the fridge for 4 or 5 days.

Use your imagination when eating and cooking purslane.  Pick fresh leaves and add to salads and vegetable juices.  Purslane is wonderful when added to vegetable stir fries or soups.  If in doubt, use Purslane in the same way as you use similar greens such as spinach.